Continuing the social media + career don’t mix trend, Essence has parted ways with its white male managing editor after right-wing news posted on his Facebook wall was brought to the attention of the magazine’s editor.
Michael Bullerdick’s position with the magazine has been controversial from the beginning. When he was hired last July, many expressed their disapproval of a white man working on a magazine for black women. Despite the title of managing editor and describing his duties for the magazine on LinkedIn as lists “Edit stories for tone and style,” Essence Editor-in-Chief Constance C.R. White stated when he was hired, “Michael is responsible for production and operational workflow. He has no involvement in editorial content.”
Whether that’s true or not, the content on Michael’s Facebook page is what led to his demise after a Journal-isms reader sent in screen shots of his wall, writing in an email:
“Essence readers would be shocked to find that Bullerdick, who under the prodding of Time Inc became the first white male editor at the magazine last year, openly espouses extremist Right-wing views that run counter to what Essence has historically stood for.”
The views referenced include an April 10 posting headlined, “No Voter Fraud, Mr. Attorney General?” with a video by conservative activist James O’Keefe. The same day, Bullerdick also posted a photo illustration of Al Sharpton titled, “MSNBC Race Pimp.” He also regularly recommends material from the conservative magazine Human Events and the right-wing website townhall.com. One post included “the Frequent Bomber Program,” an article about 1960s anti-war radical Bill Ayers on which Bullerdick wrote, “Obama’s mentor and friend.”
When this news first broke on Journal-isms Friday, White issued this statement, saying:
“As editor-in-chief, I’m responsible for all editorial content for Essence. I hired Michael to manage the production schedule of Essence. As head of production, he does not attend editorial idea meetings, nor does he get involved in the editorial direction of the magazine.”
By the end of the day, a spokeswoman said:
“By mutual agreement, Michael has accepted a position in another division.”
When Essence was questioned about their social media policy, the spokeswoman said employees should follow the current Standards of Business Conduct, which is distributed to everyone at the company. She also said Dan Okrent, who leads Editorial Standards and Practices for Time Inc., has been working with the magazine’s top Editors to develop a specific social media policy, which will be released when it’s completed.
There’s no word on what Bullerdick’s new role is within the company, but this shift certainly demonstrates the fine line between an employee being able to express personal views that are inconsistent with those of its employer on social media.
Do you think this move is fair?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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